Touring the world without leaving Iowa! Visit Rome, Madrid, Jamaica (Iowa) and more

Location of Madrid, Iowa

Coordinates: 41°52′32″N 93°49′12″W

Kyle Munson has a very entertaining story in today’s DM Register about two Iowans who decided to tour the world without leaving Iowa by visiting all – or most  – of the towns in the state named after famous foreign cities  Around the world in Iowa?.

We’re talking about towns and cities in Iowa named  Madrid, Rome, Paris, Manilla, Turin, Melbourne, Persia, Denmark, Hamburg, Macedonia, Wales, Luxemburg,  and Sidney (not Sydney but close enough).[No word on whether they made it to Brooklyn or Nevada, Iowa…maybe that’s another trip – Iowa cities sharing the same name as more-famous U.S. cities.]  The two Iowans who visited some 22 cities in four days decided to have even more fun by jumping out of their car to take a photo beside the town side, each place they visited – and wearing appropriate clothing (ex: Rasta duds and a joint – fake we’re told – for Jamaica; dyed dish towels to use as a shroud for Turin). They also tried created a passport of sorts, which they  tried to get it stamped in each city – which was a problem since several places were so small they no longer had a post office. And they created little stickers with the name of each place they visited – akin to those old school travel stickers from times past – to slap onto their old school suitcase.

And as any Iowan – native or in my case veteran transplant – knows, the pronunciation of the Iowa version of these places can vary.  Madrid is MAD-rid   not Muh-Drid. (And Nevada, Iowa,  is pronounced here as Ne-VA-duh not Ne-vah-duh.) I’ve gotten so used to this that when I encounter the original or more famous Madrid or Nevada, I have to stop myself from using the Iowa pronunciation. (When I went to the real Peru last year, I was tempted a time or two to use the pronunciation used by  the city of Peru, Illinois, i.e. Pee-Ru.)

Kyle also included some fun information about the unlikely way   some of these towns got their copycat names – and mentioned a book on the topic I’ll need to track down. Here’s a snippet below:

  • Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid), settled by Swedes, happened to be named after the Spanish city as an intended insult to one of the town’s founders.
  • Jamaica allegedly was named when the mayor of what then was known as Van Ness was blindfolded and randomly placed his finger on a world map.
  • Manilla in Crawford County was decided in a tug of war that might have resulted in a dot on the map called Paupville.
  • (Check out “A Dictionary of Iowa Place-Names” by Tom Savage of Muscatine for a full A-to-Z rundown of such name-origin oddities.)
  • Luxemburg, Iowa

    Location of Luxemburg, Iowa

    Coordinates: 42°36′17″N 91°4′36″WCoordinates: 42°36′17″N 91°4′36″W
    Country  United States
    State  Iowa
    County Dubuque

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